Where To Find Wi-Fi While Traveling

We all know the definition of ‘Wi-Fi’ these days, and that’s a start. The more nonchalantly we all refer to this wireless Internet connection we all seek fervently, both while traveling and not, the more likely it is that we’ll find it. Finding Wi-Fi today is easier than it has ever been before, but the search can still be tricky. In the future, every square foot of U.S. land will have lightning speed Wi-Fi access, but until then, here are some tips for finding Wi-Fi while traveling.

1. Transportation

The one thing every traveler does is physically travel, so the easiest way to find Wi-Fi while traveling is to utilize a network hosted by your transporter. Airports and even airplanes usually have access to Wi-Fi. You’ll have to pay for Internet on the actual plane these days, but before you cough up money for the wireless you use in the airport, make sure to do a check for free networks. You can also find Wi-Fi now on trains, buses and boats.

2. Lodging

Your lodging while traveling is often a good resource for finding Wi-Fi. Not only do most hotels, motels, inns, lodges and resorts have Wi-Fi these days, but even more surprising accommodation choices offer Internet access. You can often find Wi-Fi now at campgrounds, truck stops, hotels, vacation rentals, airbnb rentals and RV parks.

3. Work Space

If you need Wi-Fi while working on the road (which is when most of us actually need it, right?), you shouldn’t have too hard of a time tracking it down. Offices are naturally equipped with Internet access and usually Wi-Fi, but you can also find a connection in other places of work. I do most of my work while on the road in coffee shops and 75% of them seem to have Wi-Fi access. Also check for Wi-Fi at convention centers, shared workspaces and libraries.

4. Leisure Spaces

If you want to find Wi-Fi in everyday places, seek and you will find. Wi-Fi connections are available in many restaurants, bars, gyms and other fitness centers, malls and regular public businesses. I’ve found Wi-Fi in spas, bike shops and certainly computer/phone stores.

5. Everywhere Else

One of the easiest things you can do is what I do: pay a little extra every month to transform your phone into a hotspot. I usually do this before I travel so I can work no matter where I am, even if I’m in a car’s passenger seat all day long.

High-speed godspeed.

[flickr image via raneko]

More US Hotels Are Now Charging For Internet: The Good News? Breakfast Is Often Free

Free breakfast? Fairly likely. Free Internet? Less so, states a new survey from the American Hotel & Lodging Association and STR.

The biennial survey shows that 23% of U.S. properties among a sample group of more than 12,000 charge for in-room Internet, up 8 percentage points from 2008. Luxury properties are most likely to charge for the service (84%), while no “midscale” properties charged for Internet. It’s a fairly steep decline as one moves down the price scale, with 76% of upper upscale properties charging, compared to 26% of upper midscale and 18% of upscale hotels charging.

Along with this rise shows a jump in charges for fitness facilities – one in four hotels charge for these facilities, up from just over one in five in 2010.

Hotels are, however, more likely to offer free breakfast (79%), although an article from Business Travel News suggests that this shift is likely due to the re-organization of hotel type participating in the survey, writing that “[n]early all mid-tier hotels – 95% of upper midscale and 97% of midscale – offer free breakfast, as do about half of U.S. upscale hotels.”

The survey also shows that despite the increased push for hotels to become more tech-savvy, many developments, such as mobile check-in and use of mobile devices for room keys have had little adoption, at 3% and 1% respectively.

Lobby check-in kiosks are also becoming a thing of the past. Now only 7% of hotels use them, compared with 28% in 2008.

[Flickr via mrkathika]

Marriott elite members get free Internet – the rest of us can still pay for it

Starting May 7th, all gold and platinum members of the Marriott Rewards frequent guest program will get free Internet access when they stay at a Marriott, JW Marriott or Renaissance hotel.

All other Marriott properties already offer free Internet access for all their guests, so if you are staying at a Courtyard, Fairfield Inn, Springhill Suites, Residence Inn or TownePlace Suites, you won’t need to worry about being elite enough to get online for free.

This of course raises the question why Marriott can’t offer Internet for free, for everyone? The three hotels brands within the chain that still charge for Internet access are the “upscale” brands – and you’d expect the more expensive rooms to come with free access.

I’ve written about this before – in my opinion, every hotel should offer Internet for free to all its guests. By offering access for free to elite guests, Marriott gets one step closer to this, but this still leaves plenty of guests that will need to fork over some of their cash just to get online. It never ceases to amaze me how hotels tend to ignore this important perk.

Travel annoyance #47: Paying for hotel Internet access has GOT to stop

If you own a hotel, and you charge your guests for Internet access, then I’m going to go ahead and tell you that I hate you. I’ll make exceptions if you run a $10/night hostel, or if your hotel is located 50 miles from the middle of nowhere, and relies on satellite dishes to get online.

But anyone with a run of the mill hotel that still charges guests for access deserves to be ridiculed and mocked.

Paying for access was annoying back in 1999, but it was understandable – the investments were pretty steep, and the cost of the actual access was quite considerable. But now most hotels have earned that investment back, and wholesale Internet access costs have plummeted, there is no excuse to use Internet access as a money maker.

Take for example the Four Seasons “The Biltmore” in Santa Barbara. This hotel is one of the nicest in the country, and is a regular location for celebrities who want to get away from the busy LA area.

A standard room at the Four Seasons costs around $580/night. This gets you a room about the size of a normal Hilton or Sheraton room, with a couple of decent amenities. But those amenities do not include free Internet access. Instead, the Four Seasons has outsourced its Internet access to Wayport (an AT&T company), and expects you to pay $10 for 24 hours of access.

Now, we can debate the issue of people who can already afford the Four Seasons, but it is a matter of principle. Paying for Internet access is just wrong, and asking customers to pay for Internet access at a $580/night hotel borders on criminal. Internet access should be a standard amenity at any decent hotel. Charging for Internet access is like making the hotel elevator coin operated.

The odd situation in the hotel world is that the cheaper the chain, the more likely you will be to find free Internet access. It makes no sense that a $60 Holiday Inn can afford to provide free access, but the Four Seasons can not. So, if you own a hotel and you still charge for access, stop it right now. Please.

Study says: hotel guests want high-tech amenities

Times are changing for hotels – for years, hotels were judged for the quality of their toiletries, or how many stars their restaurant managed to score, but hotel guests are increasingly paying attention to the high tech features at the hotel.

Reuters surveyed over 6300 people and asked them how they pick a hotel, and which features mean the most to them.

A whopping 47% of those interviewed said that they’ll only pick a hotel if it offers the technology they need.

What this means to the hospitality world is that hotels can no longer afford to only offer WiFi in the lobby, or dare charge $29.99 a day for wired Internet access (you’d be surprised how many hotels still do this).

Hotels that have not yet made the investment in up to date equipment will have to start playing catch up real soon, because the survey proves what I’ve known for years – being able to get online at your hotel is more important than the industry thinks.

And yes – there are still a lot of hotels out there that do not offer any kind of high tech amenities, and it isn’t in the expensive hotels where these services are lacking, surprisingly its mainly in the higher end chains.

You can check into a $69 Holiday Inn and find perfect speedy free WiFi access, then check into a $199 Marriot the next day and have to pay $14.95 for slow wired access.

The cheap hotels paid attention to the needs of their customers while the upscale properties assumed people who’d be willing to pay for their rooms wouldn’t mind an extra $100 a week just to get online.

As the economy changes, more and more people will prefer a low price room with free tech, over an expensive hotel with chique toiletries and paid Internet access.

(via: Switched)